October 30, 2014

Hemingwrite, red
The Hemingwrite

One of the most searched upon posts here on TDH.me is my e-ink typewriter piece. There are people visiting it every day, which speaks volumes about what weird creatures writers are. Yes, I think they’re writers, who else would find use of a typewriter in this day and age?

These people would probably like the Hemingwrite, a typewriter for the, well, I’m not sure what century. First things first: This is a prototype, you can’t buy it. The images seen in this post are renders, aside from the one where the prototype’s actually being used. Despite this, and the lack of the inevitable Kickstarter campaign, the tech press has been all over the Hemingwrite.

So what is it? Well, it’s a typewriter, so to speak. The 6″ e-ink screen is almost exactly what I asked for in my e-ink typewriter piece, and the mechanical keyboard, with Cherry MX switches, is promising to say the least. There’s also wifi in this thing, so that you can sync your writing to Evernote and Google Drive. Personally, I hope for Dropbox and other services, but hey, let’s not get picky. The device is instant on, and there’s low-energy bluetooth too, which could prove useful, although for what is somewhat unclear at this time. Add some six weeks of battery life, and storage for over a million pages, and you’ve got yourself a dedicated writing machine worth coveting. And, despite the somewhat corny name, I think the Hemingwrite is a beauty.

Hemingwrite prototype in action
Hemingwrite prototype in action

The reason why this device might soon exist comes to mind. This is what Adam Leeb, lead designer, and Patrick Paul, software developer, says:

Writing is hard, really hard! For most of us that haven’t written anything since high school, we don’t have the ability to write elegant prose. We need all the help we can get!

The Hemingwrite is designed to aid both the new and established writer by providing a robust writing tool that completely removes all distraction from our daily connected lives. Wifi connectivity has been included to sync to the cloud but without a browser or email client there will be no playing angry birds or checking email. The Hemingwrite is designed for one thing and one thing only: putting words on a page.

I’d like to add “because we can”, if I may, because there’s really no need for this device. It’s a luxury, and an excuse to not get started on your writing right away, something we’ve all fallen for some time or another during our writing careers. That, and because there’s a small need too, for those of us who like to write in the sun. After all, I bought not one, but two, Alphasmart NEO devices this summer for this exact reason, and it turned out to be the primary tool for writing the first draft of a novel. If the Hemingwrite can offer the same for any other writer, then who are you – and I – to argue with its existence?

The Hemingwrite, annotated
The Hemingwrite, annotated

I don’t think the Hemingwrite is the typewriter for the modern world, that’s a title better held by the iPad. This is a niche product for the geekiest of us writer types, the ones who can’t really buy the whole do it old school with a vintage typewriter on actual dead trees thing, but want a similar feeling nonetheless. Granted, there’s a lot of us, but there’s also a lot of alternatives to the Hemingwrite, if you’re after distraction free writing, cloud backups, and whatnot. Deck out a tablet, a smartphone, and you’re golden.

All that said, and aside, I’ll tell you this: When the Hemingwrite is available, I’ll pick one up. For me, it’s the natural next step from my Alphasmart NEOs, because I really enjoy typing away in the sun. The distraction free part is easily achieved on so many devices, so that’s not a dealbreaker, but the concept as a whole is tantalizing. As long as your obsession with the Hemingwrite, or any other similar writing device that lures you into believing you need it for writing, isn’t stopping you from churning out words in the now, then there’s no harm in coveting a wannabe typewriter.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.